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Relief agencies reported fighting in several locations in Western Upper Nile/Unity State in the week of October 11-17, marking a deterioration in security conditions. OLS security put almost all Western Upper Nile/Unity State locations off limits (“red no-go”).654 Then, after attacking a number of government positions in Blocks 1 and 4, Peter Gatdet lived up to the threat that he would target oil facilities there. In mid-October 1999, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s troops attacked an oilrig in Talisman’s Unity field. According to the SSDF, this was a diversionary strike to lure reinforcements to the rig. Among the reinforcements was a military vehicle that ran over an anti-tank landmine in the road laid by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces. The landmine killed three Sudanese government soldiers, two of them officers.655 Neither Talisman nor GNPOC issued any statement regarding the military attack on what Talisman later told Human Rights Watch was its “Mobile Rig 15” inside the concession. A few months after the incident, Talisman’s CEO Jim Buckee essentially agreed with the rebel version of events. He said it was his understanding that the attack on Mobile Rig 15 occurred on October 15, 1999, at night. Twenty or so intruders opened fire and the army soldiers stationed at the rig responded, according to Buckee. The shooting lasted about twenty minutes, and the intruders withdrew, leaving one of their own dead behind.
Also killed were two Sudanese oil workers, employees of a subcontractor. Another Sudanese employee was injured in the buttocks by a bullet. Buckee confirmed that two or three Sudanese military men died when their vehicle ran over a landmine nearby, as they came to reinforce the soldiers at the rig.656 654 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: October 11-17, 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.
655 Kuong Danhier Gatluak, SSDF security officer, Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Nairobi, October 28, 1999. Cmdr.
Peter Gatdet’s forces may have obtained the landmine when they captured Mankien.
656 Talisman officials, interview, February 3, 2000. But see “Buckee speaks on Sudan controversy,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), Calgary, May 8, 2000. Talisman’s British Army-trained security chief in Sudan tried to make it appear that these were two unrelated incidents: he told a journalist some shots were fired at a drilling rig location south of the Heglig oilfield, injuring two Sudanese rig hands. Within a twenty-four hour period, he said, a mine exploded in the vicinity, killing military personnel guarding the area.
“Making it sound like organized combat is inaccurate,” he explained. He added: “We are not trying to say there are no difficulties in the south, a region with a history of inter-factional conflict.” “Seeking Riches in Sudan,” Calgary Herald, November 20, 1999.
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The OLS noted fighting on October 15 near Mayom.657 An SSDF press release announced that Cmdr.
Peter Gatdet’s forces had badly beaten the Protectors of the Oil Brigade (Liwa Hamma al Bitarol) when it tried to come out of Mayom garrison on October 19. The SSDF claimed most government soldiers in the brigade were killed or wounded, some being drowned in the river.658 Meanwhile, the OLS reported that shelling was “ongoing” in Bentiu and surrounding areas,659 and travelers arriving in Khartoum from Bentiu on October 21 told the press that Cmdr. Peter Gatdet was “bombarding” Bentiu. But Talisman said that its oil output was unaffected by the reported attacks on Bentiu and other garrison towns in its concession. 660 In a further denial, CEO Buckee said, “I don’t know anything about it, and it seems unlikely because nobody down there has got any artillery.”661 But both the Sudanese government and the SPLA had artillery, as reported by agencies, travelers, and weapons experts.662
Government Recruitment and Diplacement in the Oilfields, October 1999
Government Army Displaces Athonj and Other Villages Near El Toor Oilfield, Block 1, 1999 Beginning in or before 1996, the army and government militias had gradually displaced the Athonj-Pagoi line of villages closest to Heglig, where Talisman had its base, in an area known as the El Toor oilfield 657 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 11-17 October 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.
658 SSDF press release, “Government of Sudan Uses Chemical Agents...,” October 22, 1999.
659 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 108: 10-16 October 1999,” Rome, October 16, 1999.
660 “Talisman Says Sudan Fighting Not Affecting Oil Flow,” Reuters, October 21, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Sudan Town Shelled by Renegade Militia,” October 21, 1999.
661 “Talisman Says Sudan Fighting Not Affecting Oil Flow,” October 21, 1999.
662 See International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1999-2000 (London: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp.
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(Block 2). By May 1999, according to a report of the Canadian government human rights delegation led by John Harker, these villages had been destroyed and their residents dispersed. Athonj/El Toor village itself was reportedly moved a few kilometers north of its original location.663 When personnel of the California-based nongovernmental organization Safe Harbor and a journalist flew into the relief airstrip in the rebel-held area of Biem in November 1999, they found about 2,000 ragged, starving, and disease-stricken displaced people, who said the army had recently forcibly “evacuated” them from Athonj and Gumriak. These areas, located northwest of the Biem relief airstrip, were within thirty-seven kilometers (seventeen miles) of Talisman’s rigs, according to the residents.
“Government officials came and told us, ‘We don’t want anybody here, this is not your place any more because we have business to do here,’” according to Dhunya Chan, an ex-resident of Athonj. Chan said that three days after the warning, the army arrived on foot and in helicopters and started dragging people out of their homes. His mother-in-law was killed during this October 1999 attack, along with seven others in the village. The government troops then burned the villages to make way for the oil development, the former residents said,664 despite the fact that many Athonj residents had already been displaced one time before for the same reason.665 Talisman’s own report bears out the destruction of Athonj village. Talisman commissioned satellite images that purported to prove that there was no displacement from its areas. The image-reader of satellite images taken between 1965 to 2000, however, specifically noted that in the Athonj/El Toor area in Block 1, early images showed a human habitation at Athonj—but few traces of it were observed in the 2000 satellite photo of the same site. Another new indigenous strip village was located in 2000 for the 663 Harker report, p. 49. Biem, which the Canadian delegation visited, was some distance east of Pariang village, in an area nominally under SPLA control. Ibid., p. 46.
664 Charlie Gillis, “Meeting the Victims of Sudan’s Oil Boom,” National Post (Toronto), Biem, Western Upper Nile, November 27, 1999.
665 According to Riek Machar, the prior time was in October 1998, after the army refused him permission to expand an agricultural scheme. See above, “Contested Elections and Displacement by the Nuer Militias, 1996-98.”
first time, in another place in the same oil region, tending to bear out the testimony that the village was removed.666 Calls for Mujahedeen Volunteers In response to the threat posed by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s mutiny, and before the wet season ended in 1999, the government began recruiting more young “volunteers” from universities for the Popular Defence Force (PDF) militias, keeping its Islamist rhetoric high and its coercive tools sharp.667 At a PDF ceremony in October 1999, President Bashir warned against anarchy and vowed to continue in the path of jihad668 and martyrdom. PDF coordinating director Ali Ahmad Karti read out the names of the brigades that had been sent to the field, including the “Protectors of the Oil Brigade,” and promised that more brigades would be created.669 The minister of defense, as well as other high-ranking military officers and police, attended the ceremony.670 The same month, the president waved the nationalist flag and warned of expected U.S. aggression, accusing the U.S. of trying to block Sudan’s development. He claimed that the exploration of Sudan’s 666 The series of satellite photos show that the small habitation developed into a strip village, and sprouted a second small group of huts in the area also. This was all gone by the 2000 satellite photo. “Kalagate Imagery Report, Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,” April 2001, published by Talisman Energy, Calgary. Inside the cover is the report of Geoffrey John Oxlee, Kalagate Imagery Bureau, “Report KIB/035-1/2001, Subject: Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,” April 2, 2001, p. 7 and Figure 4: El ToorThese photos and analysis were presented at the Talisman annual meeting in May 2001 and selectively to the press.
667 In prior years, effective recruitment devices had included threats that the students would not graduate, would not get a job, and would not be able to travel abroad unless they “volunteered” for the Popular Defence Force for four months and went to the front.
Student PDF members in an SPLA prisoner of war camp, Human Rights Watch interview, Yei, southern Sudan, October 22, 1997.
668 Jihad is the Arabic word for the Muslim concept of holy war or struggle.
669 It appears that the Protectors of the Oil brigade may have been composed partly or entirely of PDF militia members. At times, the Islamist-oriented and –recruited PDF formations are referred to as mujahedeen, holy warriors.
670 PDF commander Staff Brigadier Umar al Amin Karti said the PDF would continue to send convoys to support the armed forces at the front lines, and praised the people’s support for jihad. “Sudan: President Pledges to Continue ‘Jihad’, Warns Against Anarchy,” Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, in Arabic, October 18, 1999, as translated in BBC Worldwide Monitoring, U.K., October 18, 1999.
oilfields did not please the U.S. Every ministry and institution therefore had to provide a certain unspecified number of people to the PDF.671 Nuer Peace Talks; Formation of the Upper Nile Provisional Military Command Council, November 1999 In an attempt to end the fighting once and for all between Bul and other Nuer in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, a New Sudan Council of Churches peace team met with civilian and military leaders in Wicok, Western Upper Nile, on October 10, 1999. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, recently defected from the Paulino Matiep militia, was present, as was Cmdr. Tito Biel of the SSDF, his former rival. Their discussions reportedly made progress. This was to be a prelude to a longer meeting. Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep was not present. Shortly after the international press on October 15 reported this peace meeting in Wicok, the government bombed Wicok, despite a government ceasefire with the SPLM/A that covered this area. The OLS contemporaneously noted that the Wicok airstrip was hit and rendered unusable on October 17.672 In late October, there were further peace talks which included Paulino Matiep. The Riek Machar UDSF/SSDF, however, accused Paulino Matiep of summarily executing twenty-five SSDF officers in Bentiu on October 31, 1999, during ceasefire discussions. Paulino Matiep denied these allegations and said that some SSDF forces had died in combat when they attacked the town.673 671 Mohamed Osman, “Sudan Leader Warns of New Aggression by the United States,” AP, Khartoum, October 31, 1999.
672 Mark Turner, “Oil Fuels the Conflict in Southern Sudan,” October 15, 1999; Kuong Danhier Gatluak, SSDF press release, October 22, 1999. The government of Sudan and the SPLM announced a three-month extension of their ceasefire, starting on October 15, which the government said covered all its areas of operations in the south. WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 108: 10-16 October 1999,” Rome, October 16, 1999; U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: October 11-17, 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.
673 SSDF unit commander Angelo Raui, twenty other officers, and four noncommissioned officers met for peace talks with Maj. Gen.
Paulino Matiep, according to the UDSF. A regional government army officer invited them to his office inside a Bentiu army garrison.
Allegedly the commanding army officer told Cmdr. Angelo Raui that Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep had issued a warrant for his arrest.
When Angelo Raui protested he was shot dead by gunmen in the office. His twenty-four companions were reportedly shot dead
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In November 1999 there were further peace talks among the Nuer. One effort to reconcile the Lou Nuer was sponsored by the New Sudan Council of Churches. The Lou Nuer are the most numerous Nuer ethnic group, and live on the East Bank of the Nile.674 After six months of prepatory work that culminated in a seven-day peace and governance conference in Waat, Upper Nile, from November 1-7, 1999, the conference issued a number of resolutions. The participants elected the Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Council to rebuild the entire civil administration structure from the bottom up, in theory surpassing what had been done at Wunlit.675 Separately, there was a meeting of Lou and non-Lou Nuer military commanders on November 2-4 at Waat.676 They formed a military command council, the Upper Nile Provisional United Military Command Council (UMCC), which was to have supreme military authority over all their forces in Upper Nile.
Participants included commanders or former commanders of Riek Machar’s SSDF,677 the SPLM/A,678 and pro-government militias including that of Paulino Matiep. This group included some forces that had already been informally cooperating with each other.
shortly afterwards outside that office. “Sudanese Faction Claims 25 Officers Killed by Rivals,” AFP, Khartoum, November 3, 1999;
“Southern Sudan Leader Says 25 Fighters Killed by Rival,” AP, Khartoum, November 3, 1999; Mohamed Osman, “Report: 40 Killed In Fighting between Rival Southern Militias,” AP, Khartoum, November 5, 1999.
674 The Lou area includes Waat, Akobo, Yuai, and Langkein.